Thursday, December 2, 2010

Who Doesn't Want to Celebrate Chanukah in a More Environmentally-Friendly Way?

I'd like to write today about this article: "Green" Hanukkah Sparks Criticism. You don't really need to read the article, but the link is there for your convenience.

The (very short and poorly edited) article is talking about a proposal in Israel to encourage people to have a more environmentally-friendly Chanukah by burning one less candle. Keep in mind that we burn a total of 44 candles over 8 days. And wouldn't it just be awkward to burn 7 candles twice?

As the article notes, each candle not burned saves 15 grams of carbon dioxide. According to the EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency, a United States governmental agency), one gallon of car gasoline emits 2,421 grams of carbon dioxide. The average Chanukah candle burns for one hour, but according to my research on the Chabad Lubavitch site, the lights are only required to burn for a half hour. Though it's discussing oil hannukiah (I wonder if that was even considered in this green Hanukkah movement, since I know many people prefer to use oil on Chanukah!), it says, "If one poured more than the required amount of oil for the lights, he may extinguish them after they have burned for more than half an hour after the appearance of the stars, if he wishes to use the excess oil for lighting on the following evening. He may also extinguish the lights in order to use the remaining oil for some other purpose, provided that he specifically stipulated that he had intention to do so before he used the oil for the Chanukah lights."

The potential solution, especially for those who celebrate Chanukah ethnically rather than religiously? Just blow out the candles after a half hour. You'll save way more carbon emissions. And if you don't? 15 grams of carbon can be made up for in a multitude of other ways! And if you really feel THAT bad about it, there are now groups that let you pay money to offset your carbon dioxide emissions. I don't know much about it, but they are always making offers to me when I buy plane tickets.

It seems that the second sentence of the Chabad quote above could allow for blowing out your candles "early" if you are worried about their environmental effects! Would any rabbis/learned persons care to share any knowledge they have on this point?

The funniest part of the article? "The founders of the Green Hanukkia campaign say each candle burning all the way down produces 15 grams of carbon dioxide, and that -- multiplied by an estimated 44 million households in Israel -- adds up quickly." That's pretty impressive for a country with only 7.6 million people total!

The funniest (and most trolling) reaction I've heard to this debate so far: "You'd have a lot smaller carbon footprint if you stopped driving on Shabbat!"

Compare and contract with this article: Dueling Billboards Face Off in Christmas Controversy. Oh, the War on Christmas continues... Personally, I've decided this year that if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, I'm going to wish them a Happy Chanukah. It just seems fair. Surprisingly, it hasn't happened yet!

1 comment:

  1. I'm pretty sure that we don't blow out Chanukah candles once they're lit. In fact, even if they do blow out by accident, according to the Kitzur Shuchan Aruch, we relight them -

    Here's a better answer: All Jews shouldn't drive on Shabbos... not just once a year, but every Shabbos. That would save so much more in carbon emissions!